Against “sexual orientation” determinism
Have you heard the slogan, “nobody chooses to be gay”? This piece has been written in order to stimulate thought about the effect upon children of social attitudes towards homosexual behaviour, in the light of that slogan’s truth, or it’s untruth.
Consider the following pair of statements.
- Everybody has an innate, immutable, biologically-determined sexual orientation that is either homosexual, or heterosexual.
- People with a homosexual orientation cannot engage in heterosexual behaviour, or vice versa.
Let’s call that two-part thought-bite “the myth”.
The myth isn’t true
In that form, the myth is easily refuted, by pointing (for instance) to the counter-examples of people who identify and live as bisexual, or as ex-gay. Or one can point to much of the homosexuality found in single-sex prisons. Or to the married, father-of-four, public figure who has been caught with his pants down, and a rent boy in the hotel room with him, for whose kiss-and-tell story the gutter press is willing to pay.
Nobody much is actually asserting the myth either, in so many words. Some readers will therefore suspect me fleetingly, of being about to use a “straw man” argument, attacking an easy target in the form of a caricature of a position I disagree with.
In the clichéd arguments raging all over the world, the rhetoric typically deployed by the proponents of homosexual equality is based squarely upon the myth. It assumes the myth, or asserts the myth subliminally, time and time again. People who would say, “Don’t be silly”, or “It’s not that simple”, when asked outright if they agreed with the myth, therefore often have the myth in the backs of their minds.
Other ideas that accompany the myth
Here are some of the other thoughts that the myth brings with it, which many people also have in the backs of their minds.
- Nobody chooses between heterosexual and homosexual behaviour. People have no choice. There is no decision to make. Homosexual and heterosexual behaviours alike, are equally determined by one’s biology. (Or, perhaps God creates gay people.)
- Since homosexual behaviours are not a choice, the behaviours must therefore be morally neutral. They cannot be “wrong” or “sinful”, if they are involuntary.
- The old school of gay activism got it completely wrong in the mid 20th century, when it encouraged “straight” people not to be uptight, but to “explore” their “gay side”. That’s not how it works after all, we have since discovered. Straight people cannot do gay things, or vice versa.
- Any individual, group, subculture or religion – or parent – that discourages homosexual behaviour in children, is simply wrong, unenlightened, retarded, unscientific, hate-filled, bigoted, and so on. He, she, or it, is risking harming children.
- There are no “formative years” during which a child could go either way. Each child was either born gay, or born straight.
- Social attitudes towards homosexual behaviour cannot possibly have any effect upon its prevalence.
- Traditional hetero-normative peer or parental pressure, in the playground, the workplace, or the home, cannot possible affect the outcome even for one child. All one can do, is to watch helplessly, waiting to discover whether one’s child was born straight, or born gay. Hetero-normative social pressure of any kind is therefore nowadays to be denounced as hate-motivated, homophobic bullying.
- There is no point in giving children information about (say) the comparative health risks of sexual intercourse and sodomy, because such knowledge cannot possibly influence their behaviour. Their future sexual behaviour had already been determined biologically by the time they took their first breath. Nobody is able to make the sort of choices that providing such information would transform into informed choices. The information thus has no conceivable use.
- People who engage in homosexual behaviour are rightly described as “homosexual people”. They are akin to an ethnicity, for the purposes deciding what “equalities” they should have, and what “discrimination” against them they should be protected from.
- A child who experiences same-sex attraction, or has early same-sex erotic experiences, must conclude that he or she is one of these homosexual people. If a child is distressed by unwanted same-sex attraction, the child should never be reassured that this might be just a passing phase, or encouraged to explore his or her “straight side” too. That would be to risk harming the child.
- Sexual intercourse, the sexual act by which a new human life is usually started, is nothing more than the heterosexual equivalent of sodomy, and vice versa.
We know that the myth isn’t true. It is, at best, an over-simplification. And the myth’s other accompanying baggage listed above, is suspect too. Rather, we can be sure that:
- One cannot say truthfully that having sex and sodomy are equivalent in any way, other than as the expression a value judgment, from which present and future generations will remain entitled to dissent, as long as mankind has freedom of thought.
- Children do have formative years during which they could go either way, maybe for the rest of their lives.
- Many children do have a real choice to make, when they experience same-sex attraction; or when they are sexually initiated by older children or by adults of the same sex, and experience physical pleasure when this happens; they are likely to experience this physical pleasure, even if they are in some emotional turmoil about whether what they are doing, or what is being done to them, is right.
And so on and so forth.
What about gays though?
Yes, there are people, who call themselves “gays”. Their perception is that the myth is subjectively true for them, so-to-speak. What I mean by that, is that if the world consisted only of them, with their perception of always having been, for as long as they can remember, deterministically, ontologically, innately, immutably and exclusively homosexually oriented, and another group that had exactly the same perception of being heterosexually oriented, then we’d be some way on the journey towards proving that the myth was true after all.
But that is not how the real world is. The reality is more complex than the myth conveys. This is the reason for having chosen the rainbow symbol, which represents diversity. It takes all sorts to make up a world, and some of those sorts, are counter-examples that disprove the myth. Some of the “colours” of the “rainbow” represent people – many of them still children – who can, and will, and do make choices. They choose whether to have sexual intercourse, or to commit sodomy, or both, or neither, during their lifetimes. Some of them, when they are old, will remember like yesterday, the days when, in their youth, they chose to practise homosexuality, and the day they chose to leave homosexuality behind forever.
Gays (meaning, in this post, people who choose to self-identify as “gay”) protect their collective perceived interests, by hinting, in the rhetoric that they, their activists and spokesmen use, that the myth must be objectively true for everybody. Why is peddling the myth in the perceived self-interests of gays? Because, they tell us themselves, self-loathing, through exposure to social attitudes that are critical of homosexual behaviour, drives some gays to suicide, which is tragic. Social attitudes motivated by faith in the myth that are more favourable or neutral towards homosexual behaviour, it is claimed, would have prevented or ameliorated any self-loathing, thus saving the lives of an unknown number of gay suicide victims. Or so the usual (rather emotional) argument goes.
What about children who aren’t deterministically, future gays?
But might not social attitudes favourable or neutral towards homosexual behaviour, for which is claimed such a good outcome for future gays, the prevention of suicides, have a potential downside for other children? If the myth were true, there could be no downside. Social attitudes would not be able to affect the prevalence of homosexual behaviour, or the outcomes for the children with choice, because children don’t have any choice, says the myth, none of them. But we all know that the myth isn’t true, that many children do have choice. Is it unreasonable to suppose that social attitudes to homosexual behaviour are unlikely to influence at all what choices children make?
Gays claim that they themselves didn’t “choose to be gay”. But, let us not forget the many adults who did once actively choose to engage in homosexual behaviour. Nor to forget those who chose to refrain from such behaviour, or such further behaviour. They remember choosing, and for some of them, carrying out the decision was a struggle.
Adults who have chosen to practise homosexuality, and those who have chosen not to alike, began to make those choices when they were children themselves. So, above all, let us consider the interests of today’s children, those who are still about to make their choices, or are in the process of making their choices.
There are always going to be children who have the ability to chose their sexual behaviour, even if one accepts the plea of automaton that most gays offer, “I didn’t choose to be gay”. (That is, if the children want to label themselves with a “sexual orientation”, presumably having in the first place accepted the concept of “sexual orientation” as valid.) Are not these children with a choice entitled, at very least, to factual information from which they can work out the pros and cons of sodomy for themselves?
A Utilitarian question
A genuine conflict of interests presents us with a moral dilemma here.
We could teach children that homosexual behaviour is normal and unavoidable for some people, and equivalent to heterosexual behaviour. We could teach them that experiencing same-sex attraction means that one has discovered that one is one of those people oneself. That’s certainly the direction in which we seem to be heading as a society.
If we choose to teach this system of doctrine, which is largely based upon what I have called “the myth”, there may be fewer suicides caused by gay self-loathing. But this hoped-for benefit will not necessarily be without collateral damage elsewhere in the population. And besides this, our teaching won’t exactly be truthful, will it? It won’t necessarily be what we believe ourselves, for a start.
Many would like our schools to teach children who can choose between sex and sodomy, that the two are equivalent, just as good and as safe as one another. They want to give the children who could go either way, no reason to prefer one way to the other. They want us to teach this to children, in order to avoid hurting the feelings of the future gays, who (it is claimed) cannot choose between sex and sodomy.
If we teach this syllabus, are we acting responsibly? Of course not! We may actually end up deserving to be sued by members of the future generation we would be harming, by teaching children the myth and the package of ideas that flows from it.
To ask a Utilitarian question, which will harm more children the most? Teaching children that sodomy is equivalent to sex? Or teaching children that sex and sodomy aren’t the same thing at all? As a society, or at least as parents, we must, in practice, choose one or other of the two teachings.
Relevance to same-sex marriage?
Most opponents of same-sex marriage say that redefining the word “marriage” by permitting same-sex couples to use the word “marriage” for their registered domestic partnerships if they choose, would “devalue” marriage. The sophisticated arguments to this effect tend to go right over the heads of the casual listener. Those arguments have yet to succeed in changing political opinion enough to kill the Bill. But there are other arguments against same-sex marriage.
The introduction of same-sex marriage, is almost bound to lead to purges. Staff who work with children, however long and unblemished their track records, who have a conscientious objection to expressing approval of, or neutrality towards, same-sex marriage, are likely to be staff whose attitude toward homosexual behaviours is critical, rather than affirmative or neutral. Such workers won’t be allowed to enter, or to remain in (for example) the teaching profession before long. They will be sacked. Only the syllabus based on the myth will be taught, with no dissenting voice heard, or tolerated.
Another argument against same-sex marriage is that it indirectly exalts sodomy, raising that behaviour to the same level of sexual intercourse, in society’s esteem. How? Well, not directly, through a consummation clause in the present Bill. We’ve escaped that indignity. But same sex marriage exalts sodomy indirectly, by furthering the entire package of ideas that is based upon a myth that nobody believes in the first place – the myth, as I have called it. The adoption of the rainbow symbol testifies that it is admitted that the myth is an over-simplification. But it is the myth that nevertheless lurks behind the slogan “equal marriage”, as it’s only rationale. Part of the package of ideas that accompanies the myth, is the value judgment that sodomy is equivalent to having sex. Same-sex marriage thus exalts sodomy.
Same-sex marriage is perhaps the final nail in the coffin of public sector hetero-normativity. I have questioned whether eradicating from our culture every last trace of hetero-normativity, might not actually harm children who do have the ability to make sexual orientation choices that gays deny ever having been able to make themselves.
Would it be such a big problem – and what problem would it be, and to whom – if we retained just this one, tiny vestige of hetero-normativity in our culture? Keeping the meaning of the old, old word “marriage” what it has always been until now? Keeping the M word’s meaning to be about relationships in which sexual intercourse itself is possible? Sexual intercourse as distinct from sodomy?
Is there a solution?
I cannot see how anybody can seriously doubt that some children avoid ending up gay, and are all the happier for it, partly because the prevailing culture retains some vestigial hetero-normative characteristics.
I don’t see how it is going to be possible to strike a balance, between the interests of the following two groups:
- Children who might commit suicide if society is too hetero-normative for them to find life bearable, the future gays
- Children who are by no means deterministically gay, but who could end up gay in practice, by making the “wrong” choice, so-to-speak
If there is a middle ground, what is it?
If there is no middle ground, which group’s interests should trump the other group’s?